One of the more challenging decisions to make at Disney World comes when it’s time to choose which Disney resort to stay in. While plenty of fun can be had at any of the resorts, how can you decide which resort is right for your family?
If you are still on the fence as to whether or not to stay at a Disney Resort or stay off-site, please see our article “Disney Resort or Offsite Hotel”.
Which Disney Resort to Choose?
Disney World has three levels of resorts to choose from: Value, Moderate and Deluxe. Let’s go through the three categories and help you choose the resort that will suit your families’ needs.
Upon arrival at the value resorts, you’ll find that the lobby is very colorful and you’ll immediately be put into a “Disney mood”. The food court is large and full of good food, and there is a great atmospher. All Value resorts have large pool areas, as well as gift shops, arcades and even an outdoor patio with the ability to order mixed drinks in the evenings. However, if you aren’t prepared for it, that excitement will quickly dissipate when you enter your room.
The rooms at the value resorts can remind you of staying at a budget motel. They open to the outside. For many this is a shock, as it may have been a long time since they have stayed at a hotel that opens to the outside. The rooms are small, although there are multi-room suites available. On one vacation we actually found ourself in a room without a shower. They had to roll in a stand-up shower!
Now this doesn’t mean I don’t recommend the All-Star resorts. You just need to know what you are in for. If you are on a budget, but want the dining plan and benefits of staying at resorts, this still may be the choice for you. However, just prepare yourself for rooms that may underwhelm you.
Another downside to the value resorts is the travel. The value resorts don’t seem to get quite the number of buses, and these resorts are the farthest from the Magic Kingdom. Another problem is that many restaurants you may be dining at are in other resorts. Travelling to other resorts without a car can also be tough, as you have to bus to a park or Downtown Disney, and then catch a ride to the resort you are travelling to for a meal, which will require extra preparation time.
The moderate resorts are a great mix between price and luxury. The rooms feel more like a regular hotel in terms of the look and feel, although you typically will still find that they open to the outside. Despite nicer amenities inside, the rooms are still rather small and certainly won’t blow you away if you are used to staying at nice hotels for business or pleasure. Disney is beginning to put Queen beds in many of the Moderate resorts however, so that is a significant upgrade from the value resorts.
The real strengths of the moderate resorts are in the theming. As an example the Port Orleans resort has a New Orleans feel to it throughout the grounds, the pool, the food court and the lobby. The attention to detail is vintage Disney. The same is true throughout the Caribbean and Coronado Springs resorts.
The pools are also exceptional at the Moderate Resorts. The water slides will be such a hit, that your kids may put up a fight to get dressed to go to the Magic Kingdom. The food is definitely a step-up from the Value resorts, and the location is far superior, as the resorts are very centrally located, with the Animal Kingdom being the only park that feels like it’s a bit of a drive.
The price for moderate resorts is typically only around $50/night more than the value, and I feel it’s well worth it.
However there still remain some disadvantages to staying at the Moderate resorts. Without a car, it can still be difficult to travel to other resorts for dining reservations. Just as with the Value resorts, you have to bus to Downtown Disney or a theme park, and then catch a bus to the resort of choice.
Also be aware that the Moderate Resorts are very large. The grounds are very spread out (except for Port Orleans-French Quarter), and it could be quite a long walk from your hotel room to the main lobby and restaurant.
Finally, a small gripe is that at times you forget you are at Disney World in some of the resorts. Disney does such a great job of theming these resorts that you can actually feel you are in New Orleans, instead of at Disney World. While some guests love this, there are some that complain that some of these resorts just don’t have the “Disney feel” to them. If that is important to you, I strongly recommend the Art of Animation resort, which is about as “Disney” as it gets.
As with the Value resorts, I strongly recommend a car with the moderate resorts. It makes life at Disney much easier when you do need to use it.
The first and most significant thing to discuss when it comes to the Deluxe Resorts is the hefty price. If a value runs 100, and a moderate runs 150, a Deluxe Resort will typically cost about $250/night! So it is more than double the price of the value resorts and is just unattainable for many of us. If the pricing is just too high for you, it might hurt to read about the advantages, because there are many!
The best part of the Deluxe resorts is without question the travel system. Three of the resorts, the Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian are all attached to the monorail system, making travel to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot a snap.
The Wilderness Lodge has a boat that goes to the Magic Kingdom. The Beach Club, Boardwalk and Yacht Club all offer boats that travel to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. The Animal Kingdom lodge, however, only uses the bus system.
The theming that takes place at Deluxe Resorts is amazing. The Grand Floridian makes you feel as if you stepped into a different century. The tropical feel of the Polynesian feels other-worldly, and the ability to see animals grazing outside your window makes the Animal Kingdom lodge a hit with guests.
Deluxe resorts all have great restaurants, room service, incredible pools and all the amenities you are used to in a luxury hotel.
Some people can only afford a Deluxe Resort one time. If this is the case with you, stay at a value or moderate resort first. Eat in all the deluxe resorts and get a feel for the grounds. You no doubt will quickly pick your favorite, and you can begin saving up for your favorite.
Disney resorts are becoming increasingly popular due to the unique feel of the resorts, the Disney Dining packages and all the benefits you receive from saying onsite. Even though there are extremely nice, national-chain hotels closer to some parks that the All-star resorts, you lose a little something when you leave the grounds.
I strongly recommend staying at a Disney resort, and if you come to Disney enough, perhaps you can try them all!
Next we need to look at the various ticket packages you can purchase at Disney: